Friday, January 6, 2012

Windmill Hill

The Windmill Hill Business Park in West Swindon with its futuristically designed buildings, opened to great acclaim in 1984.

The area owes its name to the presence of a windmill in the vicinity, although not the one that stands in the Business Park today, which originally came from Chiseldon.

Built in 1823, next to the cemetery on Butts Road, Chiseldon, the mill passed out of use in around 1892.  After that it was used as a stable and for storage purposes, until the St. Martin's Property group began reconstruction at the Windmill Hill site in January 1984. A building more authentic to the area is the former Marsh farmhouse presently used as office accommodation.

The 101-acre dairy farm, once part of the Lydiard Park Estate, belonged to the St. John family.  The tithe map apportionments, produced in 1841, record ancient field names such as The Shannells and Picks Mead.

Early 19th century Rate Books reveal that William Dore, founder of the Swindon auction business, was tenant in 1806 while James Ellison was one of the longest serving tenants, paying rates on the farm from 1823-1850. He was followed by a series of relatively short-term lets until W.J. Rumming moved in at the end of the century.

Marsh Farm appeared as Lot 18 when Lady Bolingbroke put the bulk of her estate up for auction in 1930.  The farm was described as an exceptionally convenient dairy holding with 'Good, Healthy, Level Pasture Land.'  The brick built farmhouse contained three rooms, dairy, larder and milkhouse on the ground floor with three bedrooms and a cheese room on the first floor.  Outbuildings included tie up accommodation for 44 cows and stabling for six horses and there was a four roomed brick built, thatched cottage close by.  The tenant, John P. Rumming, son of W.J. Rumming, bought the farm in a private transaction.

In the absence of any archaeological remains of the windmill there is one compelling piece of pictorial evidence.

Among the St John monuments in St. Mary's Church, Lydiard Tregoze is the Golden Cavalier, a memorial to Sir John St John's son Edward who died fighting for the Royalist cause at the 2nd Battle of Newbury in 1644.  Edward was one of three of Sir John's sons who were killed during the English Civil War and it is believed  that the house at Lydiard Park served as a garrison for the Royalist troops.

On the base of the Golden Cavalier statue there is a relief carving of the Captain Edward St John leading his troop of sixteen men.  Alan Turton in English Civil War Notes & Queries in 1985 writes "the whole design may show Captain Edward St John parading his troop in the park, hence the railings, of his family home at Lydiard Tregoze where there is also a Windmill Hill on the estate."

Marsh Farmhouse

Golden Cavalier

Edward leading his men - 
the windmill can be seen in the top left hand corner

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